Gwennap Pit, Cornwall: ‘The most magnificent spectacle this side of Heaven’

Annie Elwes kicks off our series on Britain's secret places with a look at Gwennap Pit.

The wind was high on September 6, 1762, when John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, was attempting to preach. He and his congregation took shelter in a strange, conical hollow formed by a collapsed copper mineshaft just outside the village of Gwennap, near Redruth; the acoustics were phenomenal and he called it ‘the most magnificent spectacle this side of Heaven’.

Wesley preached there 18 times and Gwennap Pit became an icon of the Methodist movement. Between 1803 and 1806, 12 rings were carved into its edges, creating amphitheatre-like seating for 1,500, although, apparently, 32,000 once crammed in to hear Wesley speak.

It now hosts an annual service, plus concerts and theatrical performances.

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